Back Links Rants Search Engines

Google Bullshit aka Penguin Debacle on the 24 April 2012

Due to the fun of time zones mostly when its the 24th April in the US its the 25th April in New Zealand. In New Zealand and Australia the 25th April is ANZAC day. ANZAC Day is the day Australasians respect our war dead – so I personally think its pretty fucking ironic that’s also the day that Google decided to DISrespect the right of small business to exist on the Internet.  By the 26th there were an awful lot casualties including – apparently being the poster child for the Adsense team and providing huge amounts of unique and original content is no guarantee that Google might rank you in the search engines. So much for the content is King argument. The winners, fairly universally, appear to be large corporations as domain authority and, quite possibly, large Adwords budgets, trump everything else. 

Full disclosure: my niche sites got slaughtered. As in every ranking gone from the top 100. My larger sites are generally OK with some oddities like losing the ranking for “passive income” for this one.  However I do not think this is a result of the deindexing of Build My Rank, I saw the drop of a few pages that was the result of that. This was the wholesale disappearance of every ranking for each site. 

Most of those affected where niche sites, which, frankly repeat the same keyword variations a little too much both on-page and in the backlinks –  I’ll ignore them for a while before I decide what to do with them. 

But there is one I’m, frankly, annoyed about, the book site I set up last August.  I set  this site up to promote my Vacation Packing List book. Before 24 April it was bouncing around page 2 for some related long-tails – but now its gone, entirely, it doesn’t even rank for the site’s domain. Instead we have: 

I mean that terms is hardly a very competitive one – in fact, as witnessed by the SERPS – Google has hardly anything that matches! It has good links and about 20 links from Build My Rank – if that’s what sunk it – then the very scary world of negative SEO is alive and well. 

My gut feel is that this one is a huge win for Google – but not for its stated reason of “removing spam for the search results” – it clearly hasn’t – just Google some of your favourite queries using a proxy such as – to see the rubbish that is ranking. 

No this is a winner for Google – because of the number of small time SEOs I see claiming that they be quitting the game. In fact if I was looking for an investment then I’d be buying shares in any company which provides email services such as mailchimp or AWeber

Because although I’m not quitting the game – I am focussing more on social traffic and building email lists. And those are easier to do with larger sites. Are niche sites dead? I don’t think so – unless every specialist site – like my one above, and every small business’s website, are doomed to rank nowhere. Which may be what Google wants – but how long before the general public start switching to a better search engine? Because at the moment if you search Google isn’t providing the answers – they are giving you a list of big brands, and sites which are way out of date. 

Other views on the update: 

Costas: Doesn’t Like Penguins Very Much 

SY: Penguin Musings 

Leo: Organic/Inorganic Links and Penguins

Dorsi – is usually a lovely sunny character – but she seems more than a little pissed as Penguin Hits Hubpages Online Writer

Authority Site Catalyst WordPress

Using Catalyst Theme To Build An Authority Site

The original title of this site, when it was on blogger, was building an online income one website at a time.  I figured I’d need about 100 websites.  I’ve hung onto the niche website model for longer than most. I may well go back to it. But at the moment I feel like I’m swimming against the tide too much, and I’ve decided to build an authority site – just to see what happens – oh and to make lots and lots of money (of course)! 

I’ve already have one authority site – this one – but I built it my accident, I want to build this one deliberately.  As  Regev asked a question in my last Catalyst Theme Review  I thought it was time to add a bit to that earlier review – by describing how I used the theme’s flexibility allowed me to achieve what  I want to do now, and how I can evolve the site  to what I want in the future, without a complete re-design. 

The Two Main Types of Travel Readers 

In my view, there are basically two types of people who read travel articles, be they blog posts or magazines: 

  • armchair travellers, those reading about a places that they will probably never visit (or not in the next year or two).  In the blogging sphere these are people skivvying off work, trying to keep the dream alive, or just escaping; 
  • those that are actually actively fact gathering for travelling. They may still be at a high level planning stage (how much money does 6 months in Thailand cost?), or they are getting quite a lot closer to departure (budget hotel near airport. Bangkok). 

Most published guidebooks cater for both. In fact the DK Eye Witness Travel Guides (some of the most beautiful guidebooks IMHO) – are pretty much designed for armchair travellers, unless you are using a porter they are far too heavy to actually travel with! Most travel addicts have at least one guidebook to a county they never quite got to! 

Most blogs only cater for just one of these groups –  often un-intentionally.

First there are those who are either gifted writers or just excited about documenting their trip know little about SEO, end up writing blogs which are great reads, but not very practically focussed.  Unfortunately most of these probably never find an audience because the writers have no idea how to promote their work. Writing and they will come still isn’t a great strategy as far as I am concerned, but if you are not writing keyword focussed content your odds of succeeding are minuscule.  To get this to work you need to be doing a lot of social media promotion. 

On the other hand there is also a number of travel blogs which were setup as, or evolved to, being mainly about practical fact gathering, often very focussed on SEO.   Some are quite fun, but then they go on a sponsored trip to “insert country you have no interest in here”, and you lose interest because its all about XYZ for months on end. Some of these sites also rely heavily on social media, but some too use a lot of SEO. 

What A Travel Site Needs To Have IMHO 

No surprise where I’m going here – I wanted a site which allowed me to reach both the “armchair travellers” with a range of amusing stories, and photos, and maybe even videos, which would get them interested in visiting a country.  Plus I wanted to use my knowledge of SEO and some specific travel destinations to write practical, “how to” style articles. I could see no reason why I couldn’t do both.  But I did need to think about how to design a site so I could regularly update both a  “travel blog” plus specific focussed “how to content”. The how to content needed to be easily found, without being in the face of the casual reader.  

I wanted to be able to feature photos. To me a travel blog without photos, is missing out on, a lot. You just gotta have the photos in my opinion. If nothing else it gives some credibility to what you are talking about.  I also wanted maps. Maybe I’m just a map geek – but I like to look at maps and I use maps for travel planning. 

I wanted clear menus and categorisation, so that visitors could find things easily. 

I wanted flexiblity to focus some categories as a silo – offering specific advertising and offers which only relates to those particular pages. Why would an advertiser of Thailand Vacations want to advertise on an article about Canada? I wanted it easy to do this.  In fact the more I looked into it the more I could see that category and tag pages are greatly under-utilised resources in many blogs. 

Using Catalyst To Design A Hybrid Travel Site 

Catalyst Theme - WordPress Accelerated

Basic Design Choices

I decided to use posts for almost everything except for genuinely static pages (Privacy Policy, About, Contact and similar).  Basically that’s because I want almost all my content to go to my RSS feed. I’ve found that content that I’ve added which is neither linked to from the front page OR the main navigation, still gets indexed quickly. The only reason for that is because its in the RSS. 

First I designed the categories up front. I needed a specific category for “travel blog” because not all of my posts were going on the travel blog.  I grouped a lot of my destination content around fairly standard geographic divisions. Designing categories gave me the main navigation of the site. I do NOT “no index” any part of my site including category and tag pages. Tag pages often rank first, before my post, so I find them useful “bell weather” indicators. Categories I have big plans for – see below. 

My tags are not designed up front. I use tags on pages where I’m targetting specific search terms, plus as a way to cross reference photos to be including in the relevant destination searches. 

I wanted a clean nice looking site, which wasn’t too cluttered, but not too bare either. I don’t think minimalism works for travel.  On the other hand I am no designer so I wanted something that I could just use. 

Implementation: I picked the “Greenfields” skin for two reasons 1) I liked it 2) It’s free. The only thing I’ve really changed is that I thought the header was too deep and took up too much space above the fold so I reduced it a bit. I also didn’t implement the slider because I wanted to use more space on the front page featuring various parts of my site (blog, photos, key destinations etc). 

I wanted the site to look good on other devices rather than just computers e.g. tablets, smart phones. 

Implementation: Latest version of Catalyst allows responsive design (which is what this is called) with a click of the button – lucky as that’s all I know about it ! 

I wanted to use a static front page (rather than current posts), because I wanted to provide and overall view of a site that was bigger than just being a “travel blog”. 

Implementation: Used a static welcome page layout “wide left 2 3 3”. The header image is actually a top widget, so I can remove on certain parts of the site if I wish to, and similarly the bottom gray footer is also a widget area which can be dropped from parts of the site if required. 

Specific Page Types and Layouts 

Catalyst provides a  specific blog template. Create a blank page – give it that template, add a specific page layout – voila – a “blog page” 

Implementation: Under core options you can chose which categories of post show on your “blog page”.

Page layouts is where the power of Catalyst really shines. Basically any page or post can have any layout and any layout can have widgets and other content anywhere on the page. It gets confusing – so briefly here are some examples. The blog page above is using my standard layout with standard excerpts and a sidebar. 

Implementation:  Each layout is setup first with specific widgets on that page. You then populate those widgets with the code you require. I use a limited amount of CSS in order to float widgets within content e.g. to display Adsense with Catalyst. I also use CSS to suppress metadata on my evergreen content (Catalyst will let me turn it off or on for all posts – but I only wanted to show dates on some content). 

Other variations of page layouts  I’m using include: 

  • No advertising on irrelevant pages e.g. Contact 
  • Standard advertising using widgets on most pages – see any blog post. 
  • Full-width layout on some pages where I want to focus on the content: Packing List Book 
  • A different full-width layout for travel photos. 
  • Specific Thailand Category Page  – I’ll use a similar design for other destinations in the future. 

Specific Category Pages 

With Catalyst you can specify a particular page to display for each category. I’m using this feature to allow me to add value to my category pages, by mapping posts to a local geographic map at the top of the page, and then using excerpts below. In future I could replace the sidebar with relevant advertising for this region too. This is basically a development of the process of replacing the Post Page Associator plugin I’ve described previously. 

Catalyst Theme - WordPress Accelerated

This is a continuing series about developing an authority site. The next post will probably be about finding new keywords in your analytics – stay tuned. 

Paid Tools The Keyword Academy

Postrunner V2 Is Coming – Sneak Peak Review from a Beta Tester

Postrunner is the guest blogging system which has been part of the Keyword Academy for several years.  Now however its being re-launched as a Postrunner V2. 

What’s New With Postrunner V2?

Well the core of Postrunner is the same as I described in my Postrunner review over a year ago. However Postrunner V2 is a complete re-write of the existing functionality – so it works robustly, plus a host of new features. The whole user interface has been greatly improved – its nice and smooth to use compared to the old one. The key functional changes are:

  • site owners can determine how long an article they want and how many links they allow. No more standard 300 word posts with two links!  If you want 1000 words with one link – you specify that at Postrunner will ensure that is all you get. 
  • site owners can add a long blurb introducing their site and saying what you will and will not accept – you can link out to a requirements page so you provide potential contributors detailed instructions 
  • there is now an author score – this is determined by owners who score your articles. Site owners can restrict access to their sites by requiring a minimum author score. If you don’t have high enough score you can’t post to those sites. 
  • on the flip side those selecting a site to publish on will now see the site’s Page Rank and, more importantly in my view, the percentage of posts ignored by the site, i.e. returned within 7 days.  
  • sites can be ranked up to 5 stars by article writers. 

Postrunner is positioning itself as an introduction service between site owners and those that wish to promote their own sites.  Postrunner sites are all owner by individuals, not the people who are running Postrunner. This is guest blogging, not manufactured backlinks. 

The aim is to get many more, quality sites into the system.  You may have noticed, having a few quality links to your site will trump thousands of trashy low quality links any day of the week. Although some, including me, will see it as a Build My Rank alternative, but really this is about legitimate guest blogging. 

Will Google like it? Who the heck knows – but I have NEVER seen or heard of a site being penalised for accepting guest posts, or using them for promotion. 

Coffee anyone? Nelson, New Zealand

Pricing Information: 

Indicated pricing for Postrunner v2 for new subscribers is:

  • free for promotion of one site; 
  • up to 10 sites: $30 per month;
  • up to 25 sites: $50 per month;
  • up to 50 sites : $75 per month;
  • un-limited sites: $199 per month; 

Note you submit as many articles on any plan – but you are limited to how many sites you can promote. 

But if you are amember of Keyword Academy WHEN Postrunner V2 is LAUNCHED you will be grand-fathered in and allowed promotion of unlimited domains. 

When Will Postrunner V2 Launch?

Postrunner is now live for all members of TKA

So what I am trying to say – its a really, really good time to join Keyword Academy – take advantage of the free 30 days look, check out Postrunner V2 – and if you decide to use Postrunner you end up paying $33/month for unlimited domains. Plus you get the other tools and information available for TKA members too. 

Questions, queries, comments? Ask away!